Mr Chop-Chop

I’ve always had a little rule when it comes to eating out anywhere “ethnic”: if there’s white people inside – back in the ride.

White people, by and large – especially those that think Las Vegas is paradise -don’t have any damn taste. They’re content in thinking that Qdoba is exotic fare and that they consider themselves worldly when they get the rubbery sushi on a larf when they see it at their grocery store deli.

Whenever I find a neat little ethnic dive eatery, bakery or bar, the first thing I do is check the white-people-quotient of the clientele. More than myself and my party, well I’d honestly rather just go to Carl’s Jr.

Pulling up to the location, you’re assaulted by an illustration of a fellow with a wooden spatula and skillet, flitting around on a cloud, gleefully, forcefully offering you an object from his blazing wok. It’s the Monkey King coming back from the West with a fistful of flavor and who are you to deny him? Being a dumbshit japanophile nerd, I can’t resist an anime character hawking me goods. I even bought skank-ass hot dogs at 7-11 thanks to them using Domo-Kun as a mascot. I’m lame like that

And that’s how this place was, all the regular clientele annoyed at the white guy in a Hawaiian print shirt wafting through the door. Hushed complaints swirl around in alien tongues, complaining that their place is now /ruined forever/  that boring whitebread WASPy dicks have an interest here. Maybe – they think – that If this lame white guy is interested, then maybe it’s nit all that great after all…

Rously loundeye luin ellerything!

To assuage fears, this place was great indeed! The menu is typical Chinese and Thai fare, no twists, no flair, no fusion. Lemon, sweet and sour, general’s chicken – all on the menu along with chow meins and fried rice and Mongolian beef, just like every other greasy chopstick. However being in the mood more for Thai than Chinese, I ordered the mint leaf chicken with fried rice. I usually never order fried rice, finding plain white to usually be more satisfying in a clearly contradictory manner, a sort of zen state of balancing the outrageous with the bland, but this is Vegas baby, anything goes.

The dish came served with a cup of egg flower soup. Great. Egg flower. I usually loathe the soup. It has the consistency of snot and the flavor of a wet sock. This egg flower though, it had something that all others I’ve experienced lacked.

Flavor.

I wouldn't believe me either if I was told there was flavor in this soup.

My head spun around in circles as I actually enjoyed this egg flower soup. It was yellow and had an index of opacity, rather than the dimly translucent gray to which I’m accustomed. I consumed the whole cup out of enjoyment rather than obligation.

The main dish came served with the entree and rice in big molded mounds, the food items were jammed into a bowl and the bowl upended on the plate. Honestly, I don’t know why Chinese-type places do this. Chinese is best eaten from a bowl. Chopsticks are to be used like a scoop, shoveling or flicking the food (primarily rice) into the mouth. Eating Chinese off of a plate is awkward at best. I’d rather eat it off of a couch or the back seat of my car, but there I go again with the asides.

The main dish, mint leaf chicken was a delight. Spicy and basily and garlicky and full of powerful flavors. Thai, in my experience is like the bastard child of a one night stand between a Chinese take-out joint and an Italian cafe. Basil and garlic roll around with wok-fried chicken amid a bed of rice.

Thai is basically everything I like about cuisine, all on the same plate, and this dish was a superb expression of the style.  The menthol from the mint leaves were wrapped in a neverending battle against the capsaicin  from the red pepper, both struggling for flavor dominance along scarred and ragged battle lines in my mouth.

The hot was hot, but not lingering. I’m used to Mexican and Southern fare, trying to be hot just for the sake of being hot, a tingling mouthfeel that sticks around with its feet on your table like a houseguest who wore out his welcome weeks ago but you’re too damned polite to tell to leave. No, this delightful Thai spice took a careful stroll around your lips as if it were window shopping and then moseyed on down the street, never to be seen again.

For eight dollars, I could have done a lot worse. Every time I go to KFC, I spend eight dollars and walk away feeling I’d been ripped off. But rather in this delightful little out of the way greasy chopstick, eight dollars was the perfect fare, a toll to pay to go down a road less traveled and experience actual enjoyment from eating, rather than just ingestion for sustenance.

Mr. Chop-Chop can be found at the corner of Reno and Pecos.

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